United Airlines announced yesterday that passengers who don't fit in a single coach may be bumped or required to buy a second seat -- though attendants will first try to find those passengers two seats together on the existing flight. Southwest has had a similar policy for years -- though it will refund the flier the cost of the second seat. Other airlines also claim the right to require large passengers to purchase a second seat -- though most don't enforce it.
The usual furor has ensued. Who gets to decide who fits and who doesn't?
As someone who has been stuck next to a person who clearly didn't fit, I'd say it's not that hard a call. If the passenger can fit in a seat with both arms in the down position, they fit. If they can't fit in the seat without raising the seat arm, they don't.
My own husband is 6'4" and no small fellow. But he does fit in a regular seat with both seat arms down, and without a seat belt extension. Still, you can imagine his ire when he was seated next to woman who not only couldn't fit in the seat with the seat arm down but when seated was so large that her elbow rested on his shoulder -- the shoulder on the other side of his body from her seat.
If you're a large person, you may be screaming about discrimination, and you surely have a point that airline seats are just too darned narrow. (Heck, they're too narrow even for a small child.)
Whether airlines should be considered a public vs. private transportation mode and subject to more federal regulation is a matter for lawyers. But as a regular flier I view it like this: I paid for an entire seat, and I should get it. The whole seat, what little of it there is.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below.